She is so much more than just the wife of Odin; she is the personification of the Norse ideals of family, patience, and strong-willed womanhood.
The northern evolution of Germanic paganism
For a period of a millennium, from the first few centuries CE up until the late 12th / early 13th centuries, people in what would become Viking societies (centered around Scandinavia and the Baltic region) worshipped a form of Germanic paganism.
With roots in more ancient Germanic practice, by the time of the first recorded Viking raids (from the mid-750s CE onwards), this had evolved into a northern offshoot that modern historians have labeled the Old Norse religion.
Whilst there was never a central book or scripture, much of the practices and beliefs we know of come from the Norse sagas and myths. Dotted throughout every Norse saga and myth is a colorful collection and cast of Norse gods and goddesses.
No god represents this synthesis better than that of Frigg, the most important Norse goddess.
Germanic origins and gender roles
Emerging from the belief systems of Germanic tribes during the Migration Period (c. 1st – 6th centuries CE), there is an ongoing scholarly debate about the evolution of Norse gods from these Germanic origins.
Some scholars believe that the goddesses Frigg and Freyja – two distinct deities in the Old Norse religion – had a common origin in earlier Germanic practices and should be considered two halves of a whole.
Scholarly debates aside, Frigg was an important member of the Æsir.
Whilst she is often depicted as the wife of Odin, making her a sort of Queen of the Norse pantheon, she is more commonly associated with marriage, prophecy, clairvoyance, motherhood, and power.
The associations with marriage and motherhood can talk to the highly patriarchal society that Viking peoples lived in, as well as the specific (and sexist) gender roles that they had for women.
Although some women may well have been Vikings, the vast majority were consigned to domestic duties with marginal amounts of power within the four walls of a home and non-existent levels of it outside it.
While Odin embarked on quests for knowledge, Frigg, his steadfast partner, maintained cosmic order, making their bond vital for the harmony of the Nine Worlds. Illustration: The Viking Herald
An imposing presence and a protective mother
One of the more unusual aspects of Frigg is that she, unlike any other Norse god or goddess, appears to have a sort of divine fan club.
This bevy of goddesses typically includes Fulla, Lofn, Hlín, and Gna. Some scholars also include the personification of the Earth itself, Jord, as one of her followers.
This demonstrates that she is very much the equal of her husband, Odin, and is capable of inspiring and leading Norse deities.
Contrary to the societal grain of Viking societies where women had few if any, leadership roles or opportunities, this goes very much against the norm.
Unfortunately, she is best known for the loss of her son, Baldur.
Frigg and Odin had a child, Baldur, who was seen as the light of Frigg's life. Upon his birth, there was great rejoicing throughout the heavens and earth.
As he grew, Frigg was not only a nurturing mother but also highly protective. This protection stemmed from her demand that every living thing in the world promise not to hurt him.
As Baldur grew, the gods would throw things at him to try and hurt him, but nothing would. It appears that even Norse gods were bound to the odd childish act or two.
Enter everyone's favorite Viking ne'er-do-well, Loki. He manages to trick the blind god, Höðr, to throw some mistletoe at Baldur.
This was the one plant that Frigg overlooked and thus failed to secure a promise of protection from.
The mistletoe struck Baldur, causing his tragic death.
Despite Frigg's best efforts, which included traveling to Hel, he remains trapped in the Underworld for eternity thanks to further shenanigans from Loki.
While Frigg worked tirelessly to shield her loved ones, Loki's cunning and deceptive nature frequently tested her resolve, setting the stage for many a Norse mythological conflict. Illustration: The Viking Herald
Later depictions and cultural influence
Frigg's cultural legacy would live on well beyond the end of the Viking Age.
As Vikings raided and traded across the North Sea to the British Isles, they took their belief systems and language with them.
As huge swathes of the British Isles fell under the rule of Vikings, a linguistic legacy was left.
Using an earlier Roman tradition of naming the days of the week after a god, by the early medieval period in the British Isles, these Roman Gods were replaced with Norse ones.
Frigg was honored with the 5th day of the week, which, in Old English, was termed "Frīġedæġ" - the day of Frigg. This name is the linguistic precursor to the English weekday, Friday.
Whilst much of what is now Germany was Christianized by the 9th and 10th centuries, not all vestiges of the Norse deities had been forgotten.
In the 12th century, a church was constructed in Schleswig-Holstein, Northern Germany, an area that was once very much a part of the Viking world.
Engraved on one of the walls is what many scholars believe is Frigg.
Old religious habits, it appears, die hard.
Frigg stands as one of the foremost Norse deities, embodying powerful womanhood, a protective mother, and the Queen of the Sky.
Her role as a joint ruler of one of the Norse pantheons shows that despite the misogynism and sexist attitudes of many in Viking societies, they were not immune to the idea of a powerful woman; in fact, they worshipped one.
For more information on other powerful Norse deities, visit the Sky History website here.
This deep-dive article was written thanks to the support of subscribers to The Viking Herald's Facebook page. Do you enjoy our work? You can SUBSCRIBE here or via our Facebook page. You'll get access to exclusive content and behind-the-scenes insights.
Feel free to reach out to discuss potential stories that may be in the public interest. You can reach us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org with the understanding that the information you provide might be used in our reporting and stories.